Stephen Edgar

(1951 - / Sydney / Australia)

The Immortals - Poem by Stephen Edgar

A breeze fills up the manna gum’s huge lung,
That hologram of bronchioles. It sways there
Tethered and shifting like a hot-air balloon
Preparing for some fresh and doomed attempt
To circle the great globe. Heaped at its base
The litter of shed bark and collapsed boughs,
So much dumped ballast. Across an expanse of lawn—
The cat’s savanna—a drowsing figure slouched
In an easy chair inhabits “Summertime”,
Living by emptying this gap of day:
A straw hat on her face like a cartoon peon,
Her right arm limply draped over the side,
Jehovah’s index finger pointing down
To where, half lost in the long grass, Daniel
Deronda’s lying in Daniel Deronda,
His pages palping at the air, as though
Blindly taking in what it all is like.

It is hard to imagine. The shallow bay
Offers up to the light the illusory depths
Of a table buffed and polished to a lustre,
Except where an inlet-wide, flung net of wind
Hauls at the panicked shoals of chop and dazzle.
High up the sky is pale as faded denim
Worn through in a few frayed clouds, but where it comes
To earth, a cyan heavier than air
And not to breathe. And sometimes in the evening
The whole space thinks again, and sky and sea
Lie in each other’s mirror, robed in gold
And self-absorbed against the envious land
They leach away, but for some failing islet
Or bluff that barely makes its presence felt.

Look, on her hand’s back are the clues to grief,
Whatever she may think—those patches like
The remnants of a suntan, veins as blue
As any sky could wish, swollen through skin
As beautiful as birch bark, and as frail—
The emblems of a loss that will see out
The ending of the world.

Persisting in some region of obtuse
Sublimity, and full of an inhuman,
Distant pity, he’ll contemplate her, baffled,
Then turn away perhaps like Beatrice
With her doubt-tainted smile. But he’ll be there.

The heat is a dimension now, like time,
And as improbable. The cottage floats,
Not quite convinced it’s happening, with its flies
And cracked linoleum, its shelves of books
Unaltered since the war, its bush-rat droppings,
The clocklike clicking of the roof—all tethered
To the least twitching of her dreaming fingers,
Her shallow breath. Later, before her friends
Descend, she’ll wander barefoot through the rooms
In something easy with an ice-filled glass
And put some music on and watch the sea.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, June 1, 2012

Poem Edited: Saturday, June 2, 2012


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